Sometimes you walk into a pub and know the beer will be good, these pubs often have signals and you soon learn to spot them. One key indicator is size, I am sure there are big pubs out there with fantastic beer, however I have found that, very true to the adage, good beer comes in small pubs (packages).
Another thing which will often give me a good feeling about a pub is a certain amount of wood paneling.
The final indicator which, counter to the effect on most, will draw me in is an unassuming front – even better if it looks a little weather worn.
The Bag of Nails in Bristol ticks these boxes, incidentally it also ticks the final and most important box of all – serves good beer.
The seven hand pumps (five were on when I visited) had a great range of beer on, I was offered a try of a beer not on but available – Russian Imperial Porter by Teignworthy, this was very strong at 13%ABV and is one of the smokiest beers I have ever had. The other beers I tried while here were Dr Hexter’s Healer by The West Berkshire Brewery and Headless Dog from College Green Brewery.
All were immaculately kept and well presented – and in thirds which I am always pleased to see.
The bottled beer selection is extensive (apparently it will be extended even further) with all the expected common bottled beers and a whole load of more interesting ones.
Behind the bar I noticed a number of particularly good boardgames – Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne and Hey That’s My Fish. For those (like me) who like to play boardgames their inclusion is just another thing to attract me into a particular pub.
The final thing of note with the Bag of Nails is the landlord, I spent a good couple of hours discussing the beer and the pub amongst other things. In a world where people pass each-other every day without even saying hello (and the same world where some bar staff are content to slosh beer into a glass and walk off) a good landlord who is not only knowledgeable of beer but also interested enough to talk to a stranger that walks in on a Saturday afternoon is an asset.
If you get the chance have a chat with the guy and definitely check out his “pub rules”, rule number one is quite an effective philosophy to run a pub by.
Overall a nice little pub and well worth a visit, the beer is varied and I understand that it changes regularly.
For more information you can visit the landlords website or follow him twitter @Lukebagofnails